Woods triumphs at "best ever" US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 US Open | Round Four | 17 Jun 2008
In what turned out to be a far more evenly matched contest than many might have imagined, Tiger Woods has edged out Rocco Mediate at the first extra hole of sudden death at the 108th US Open after 90 holes had been unable to separate the pair.
In front of record crowds, the playoff alternated between both players throughout the round. Woods took an early lead when Mediate bogeyed the first after finding the greenside bunker and missing from six feet. Mediate bounced back at the third after almost holing his tee shot at the par three and with Woods plugged in the front bunker a two shot swing saw Mediate in the lead by one.
Woods appeared to have taken the ascendency when he birdied the 6th and 7th holes to move two ahead and although Mediate was able to claw back a shot at the 8th, Woods went two ahead again at the turn when he scrambled a par and Mediate three putted.
At the 10th the margin became three when Woods holed a lengthy par save and Mediate was unable to take advantage of the inside running he had for much of that hole.
Consecutive pars at the 11th and 12th were enough for Mediate to reduce the margin to one and when both players birdied the par five 13th it was still one as they headed to the 14th tee. Mediate drew level when he birdied the reachable par four 14th.
The 15th saw Woods hit probably his best shot of the week from the bunker on an adjacent fairway to ten feet but Mediate holed from 30 feet and when Woods missed, Mediate was ahead for the first time since the 4th hole.
Both parred the 16th and then headed to the 17th with Mediate still one ahead. Both parred the hole and the pair reached the 18th tee with Mediate one ahead and the prospect of an unlikely victory just ten minutes away – perhaps.
Mediate’s tee shot at the par five found the left hand bunker and Woods, desperately needing to find the fairway, was able to do just that. Mediate could only lay up and did so successfully. Woods with 227 to the hole and a left to right wind hit a four iron to the front half of the green 65 feet from the hole. Mediate finished 18 feet short and left with his approach. Woods ran his putt four feet by and it was now left to Mediate to hole his and win outright. He missed and although both were left with missable putts, both were made and it was off to extra holes.
The par four 7th would be the first of the sudden death holes.
Woods was first to go and hit a great drive along the right edge of the fairway. Mediate turned his drive over and found the left hand fairway trap. From there Mediate pulled his second left into the grandstands. Woods hit 9 iron to the front edge and twenty feet from the hole. Woods was first to putt and was again just short in the heart of the hole. Mediate had to make his to keep things going but he could not and his brave challenge for an improbable victory was gone.
For Woods this was arguably his greatest victory and he admitted as much himself.
“I think this is probably the best ever. All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position, to be honest with you. It was a long week. A lot of doubt, a lot of questions going into the week and here we are 91 holes later.”
“I wasn’t going to bag it, said Woods when asked if he had considered quitting during the event. “I think everyone knows me well enough that—it’s not in my nature, I don’t know how to do that. It helped to have that energy from all the fans, because there were times when it stung quite a bit. I had a couple of zingers out there. It was unbelievable.”
“The whole week, the golf course was set up so fair, but also so difficult. Everyone who’s come out this week has been absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere is incredible. I mean the fans here – they made the tournament. And then today it was just unreal.”
Mediate was perhaps philosophical about the fact that he had just missed a golden and maybe final opportunity to win his national championship.
“Yeah, it was good. I threw everything I had, everything I had. He had to birdie the last to stay in it again and he did it. He’s remarkable. But I hung in – I came out there in the middle, was 3 back, 3-down after 10, and I really didn’t play that poorly.”
For Woods it may mean we will not see him again until the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
“Not for awhile,” he responded when asked when he might play again. “I’m going to shut it down for a little bit here and see what happens.”
This was one of the great US Opens on a golf course that lent itself to, and deserved, the outcome it got. It was considered by some to be a gamble to bring it to Torrey Pines but ultimately the end certainly justified the means.